I do not usually read Young Adult novels, but decided to give Velveteen a try because I know the local writer, Daniel Marks, and was enticed by the premise of the book.
Though the back of the book may say otherwise, this is not a tale of revenge. It is presented as a book about a ghost trying to avenge her death by haunting her murderer, but that really isn’t the case.
After the first chapter, Velveteen’s lust for revenge becomes nothing more than one of several subplots.
Velveteen has a promising start. In the first chapter, we see her destroying the house of the man who killed her – a serial killer known as Bonesaw. Once she finishes her destruction, Velveteen returns to the spot where she was murdered.
When she gets there, she discovers that Bonesaw has another victim. Velveteen promises to save the girl and promptly returns to Purgatory, because apparently haunting is considered a crime. As soon as Velveteen makes it back to Purgatory, the plot of the book shifts.
Revenge is no longer Velveteen’s main concern (though she does whine about it every few pages, lest readers forget she was murdered and is pissed off about it). Instead, the story shifts to the rising problem of revolutionists hell-bent on escaping Purgatory.
As part of their revolution, souls have been escaping Purgatory and causing enough destruction to create disasters known as “shadow-quakes.”
Velveteen and her team of Salvagers are renowned for their ability to handle these disasters, despite the fact that Velveteen has only been in Purgatory for about two years and the rest of her crew hasn’t been there much longer.
Almost as soon as Velveteen gets back from her haunting, she and her crew are sent back to the land of the living to deal with a particularly nasty shadowquake. They manage to get the bad guy and save the soul of a teenage boy who had been trapped inside a crystal ball.
As soon as she sets eyes on him, the romantic subplot begins. However, the romance is rushed and seems to have no other purpose than to pad the plot. Less than five minutes after they meet, Velveteen and her romantic interest, Nick, have their first kiss. Velveteen then spends the next thirty pages or so whining and mentally questioning her attraction to Nick.
As much as I can tell, it seems Marks did a wonderful job of world building. He definitely has a unique vision of Purgatory, but unfortunately he only mentions details in passing.
Readers never get a full picture of Purgatory. Instead, they get bits and pieces throughout the book that fail to make the world seem real. The pieces that get brought up are intriguing, but leave the reader wanting a clearer picture.
I think readers of Young Adult will love this book. However, it just wasn’t for me. I could not connect with the character and found it hard to even feel sympathetic for her, which should have been easy given the circumstances of her death.